Re: More on barcodes, etc

From: Edmund R. Kennedy <ekennedyx_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Mon Apr 18 2005 - 09:55:43 CDT

Hello Alan:

1. Bar code or OCR? Have them both as a switchable
option. Let the election official make the call. You
can promote the use of bar codes in the documentation
or instructions but let the people on the spot take
the heat for their own decisions.

2. Election cycle initiation: Token or otherwise?
Again, make this an option that is picked by the
County Registrar or equal.

3. Summary paper ballot versus full mark sense
ballot? Make both styles of output available.

Down with either/or. Do them both. If we can argue
competing virtues and admit that each choice has
strengths and weaknesses then all the choices should
be available.

If both testing and experience show that one method is
vastly superior to the other and election officials
are generally in agreement, then options can be
removed in later versions. Otherwise, this is not a
battle worth fighting.

Thanks, Ed Kennedy

--- Alan Dechert <> wrote:

> Arthur wrote,
> > How many blind people say they prefer the current
> approach?
> > How many sighted people say they are concerned
> about the
> > barcode? When OVC's CTO speaks about technology
> along with
> > an acclaimed and accomplished technologist, I
> think that
> > retreating behind "go and demo it" is unfortunate.
> > Certainly a demo with a barcode is easier to
> produce.
> > It's not at all clear that the production version
> should use
> > a barcode. The paper talks about OCR'ing the
> text, by the way.
> >
> Barcode issues surfaced in some off-list discussions
> we were having
> recently. We've had extensive discussions about
> barcodes in the past,
> and some of the issues remain unresolved. Arthur's
> email warrants a
> detailed response, so here goes.
> First I want to talk a little about official OVC
> policy -- where it
> comes from. The OVC president/CEO (currently me,
> Alan Dechert)
> represents official OVC policy. This is by
> necessity. Someone has to
> articulate these policies publicly. Sometimes these
> policies appear
> in print; sometimes these policies are conveyed in
> email to other
> interested parties; sometimes these are conveyed
> personally at events
> at which OVC is involved. It's my job to know what
> those policies
> are. When issues arise in various fora, I can't
> say, "I don't know, I
> have to ask the board." I have to know the issues
> and know where OVC
> stands on these issues.
> Generally speaking, OVC policy is set by consensus.
> Theoretically,
> the OVC board of directors has the power to set
> policy. Some policies
> are set that way but most policy decisions have been
> made outside of
> board meetings. This informal consensus rule
> generally holds for the
> board too since we've never decided anything with
> some close vote like
> 4-3, or 3-2, etc. Almost everything we decide at
> board meetings is
> unanimous with some abstentions here and there. We
> tend to vote on
> things only after we've had enough discussion to
> agree on what we want
> to say.
> A great deal of OVC policy was grandfathered-in --
> the product of
> discussions that took place before OVC was founded.
> Mostly, these
> policy decisions were made in conjunction with our
> various academic
> partners over the years. In April of 2001 Henry
> Brady asked, "so how
> will people make money with this system?" We
> started to describe
> (conjuring, modeling) how the organization might
> work.
> A lot of things were decided APR 2003 - July 2003.
> Someone recently
> asked if OVC endorses IRV. OVC is neutral on
> scoring methods because
> one of the main discussants back then, Arnie Urken,
> insisted that we
> remain neutral on scoring methods. Everyone else
> involved then agreed
> and no one has ever made a case for changing that
> policy. That's how
> the policy was made. During this period, Doug Jones
> played a major
> role shaping the OVC model. My wife Lori and Jay
> Tefertiller (ISIS
> Technology) worked out a lot of legal and
> organizational issues (we
> decided to be a "consortium"). Arthur Keller played
> a major role too
> beginning in July of 2003. Doug and I cobbled
> together the bylaws in
> NOV - DEC 2003. Ed Cherlin, David Mertz and quite a
> few other
> engineers contributed ideas
> In 2003 (and earlier), we consistently heard DRE
> makers and their
> "supporters" (dare I say paid shills?) insist that
> paper printouts
> were unfair to reading impaired voters since these
> voters cannot
> verify the vote on paper. This position was
> expressed in a videotaped
> presentation by Marion Taylor of the League of Women
> Voters at the UC
> Santa Cruz forum on electronic voting we organized
> (mainly Bob Kibrick
> and Arthur Keller) in OCT 2003.
> Long before the debates in 2003, I had come up with
> the idea of
> putting a barcode on the long edges of the printout
> so a blind person
> could utilize the barcode while keeping the text
> hidden from view
> (Actually, Ryan Ronco, assistant ROV in Placer
> County CA suggested the
> barcode to me in APR 2001. Ryan was mainly
> suggesting it as a way to
> facilitate tabulation. I moved it to the edge as an
> accessibility
> feature).
> As I designed the ballot for our demo, I figured out
> what barcode
> system I wanted to use. I decided on Code 128
> because it could encode
> all the information we needed to encode and scanners
> could be had dirt
> cheap (I bought a bunch of scanners for about a
> dollar each). I
> looked for GPL'd Code 128 software and found Jan
> Karrman. Jan joined
> the project. Most of the technical issues with the
> barcode were
> worked out between Jan and I. Sidebar: An example
> of some OVC policy
> making .... David Mertz insisted that it might be
> possible for someone
> to discern some information about the ballots by
> eyeballing the
> barcodes. I never believed that. We came up with
> an obfuscation
> routine that was easy to implement and cost nothing,
> so I went along
> with it. If it was all up to me, I wouldn't have
> bothered with it.
> The gain was small but the cost was negligible. In
> other words, OVC
> policy is sometimes contrary to what I believe. If
> the consensus
> opinion is contrary to what I believe, I'm glad to
> go along with it so
> long as it doesn't conflict with some concepts I
> hold and consider
> basic and important.
> The scheme we demonstrated for reading-impaired
> ballot verification
> was very important. We publicly shattered a very
> persistent myth.
> Shawn Casey O'Brien, a disabled rights activist,
> showed up at our OCT
> 2003 UC Santa Cruz forum and gave a speech
> denouncing the paper trail
> because it was useless to blind people. I
> demonstrated why he was
> wrong about that, and ended the debate. You don't
> hear anyone making
> that claim anymore (blind can't verify paper
> ballot). All opinion
> leaders know it's false. No disabled rights
> activists have shown up
> at any of our events since OCT of 2003 to make that
> claim. OVC can't
> take all the credit for that since others have made
> the point too. I
> do think it's fair to say we played a major role in
> dispelling this
> myth. Since accessibility has been a major theme in
> voting
> modernization, it was absolutely necessary to break
> this myth in order
> to get the idea of a computer generated "paper
> trail" accepted for
> voting.
> Some credible technologists (and others less
> technical) have said that
> we should do away with the barcode since it seems to
> be contrary to
> the goal of transparency in election administration.
> I don't happen
> to believe that, but I'm happy to go along with it
> since switching to
> OCR does not impact the overall veracity of the OVC
> approach. I am
> perfectly willing to say, now, that while our demo
> utilizes the
> barcode, our production system may not. I see pros
> and cons. I see
> tradeoffs. I see perceptual issues.
> Before getting into some of the pros and cons, let's
> lay out some main
> principles as a backdrop for the discussion.
> First Principle: the voter is paramount.
> --------------------------------------------
> The voting system should be designed and built with
> this principle in
> mind. Security, trustworthiness, cost, clarity,
> simplicity,
> ease-of-use, accuracy, accessibility, auditability,
> inclusiveness,
> convenience are all important issues in election
> administration. But
> what's secure, trustworthy, inexpensive, clear,
> simple, easy-to-use,
> accurate, accessible, auditable, inclusive, and
> convenient for
> election administrators must be secondary to what's
> secure,
> trustworthy, inexpensive, clear, simple,
> easy-to-use, accurate,
> accessible, auditable, inclusive, and convenient for
> voters.
> The voting system is for voters, and paid for by
> voters.
> Second Principle: costs must be minimized
> ---------------------------------------------------
> The four billion dollars being spent on voting
> modernization is a
> fluke of history. Before 2002, states and counties
> have never had
> much money for voting equipment, and should not
> expect a lot of money
> to be available in the future for new voting
> equipment. Budgets are
> constrained everywhere. Expensive voting systems
> means long lines and
> voter disenfranchisement. Ultimately, open voting
> will take hold
> through market forces -- open voting systems must be
> very inexpensive.
> Also, if America is to maintain a leadership role in
> promoting
> democracy through out the world, we have to show how
> a great voting
> system can be built and maintained inexpensively.
> How many
> jurisdictions in developing countries could
> contemplate deploying the
> $5,000 AutoMark system? It's a ridiculous waste of
> resources.
> Third Principle: election process must be fully
> auditable
> Institutional protocols must be in place to enable
> full public audit
> of all aspects of election administration. If there
> is anything a
> voter wants to know about election administration,
> he or she should be
> able to get answers in whatever level of detail
> desired without ever
> hearing, "trust us" or some other indication that
> information about
> the voting system is not available to them.
> Fourth Principle: Election administration is not --
> and can never be
> -- a computerized process
> The process of administering elections mainly
> involves procedures
> carried out by people. Computers can assist in the
> process, but can
> never be expected to run elections. Computers can
> enhance the
> security and accuracy of election administration, as
> well as keep
> costs down.
> There are other important principles, but these are
> the three main
> ones I want to keep in mind right now. In light of
> the foregoing, I
> have the following observations about the barcode v.
> OCR debate with
> respect to the computer generated summary paper
> ballot;
> 1) Machine reading should be incorporated into the
> process of counting
> votes. Computer reading can act as a check against
> human error, and
> vice-versa. Security and accuracy will be best when
> both computer and
> human counting are employed.
> 2) A barcoded ballot may be more tamper resistant
> than one with no
> barcode. We expect that rules surrounding the OVC
> barcoded summary
> paper ballot would include a rule that says
> something like, "No
> pencil, pen, etc. marks of any kind are to be made
> on the summary
> paper ballot. If you want to change anything on the
> ballot, you must
> re-do the process and print a new ballot. Any hand
> markings on a cast
> ballot will be ignored." The rule should be
> ironclad. Voters will be
> encouraged to carefully review their ballot
> on-screen before printing.
> If there are scribbles on a barcode, it may still
> be readable or the
> other duplicate barcode could be read instead. We
> could also place
> another copy of the barcode in the text area if
> necessary, and/or
> another version of a barcode (not easily
> recognizable as a barcode)
> could be included that may be read by a special
> reader in case a
> ballot has been defaced. An OCR only summary paper
> ballot may not
> work well with such a rule (hand markings ignored).
> A cross-out may
> cause the OCR reading to fail. If the mark-out is
> complete, or the
> selection torn off, it may be impossible to
> determine what was printed
> on the ballot.
> 3) OCR-only is not any more transparent, and may be
> even less
> transparent than a barcoded ballot. For example, the
> architecture we
> are employing involves using the machine reading to
> create a
> reconstructed electronic ballot image (REBI) and
> compare that with the
> electronic ballot image (EBI) from the voting
> machine for that
> particular ballot. If the contents of the REBI and
> EBI match, the
> machine reading was accurate. However, this proof
> alone is not
> adequate. If malware is installed, it's conceivable
> that while the
> REBI and EBI match, they don't match the printed
> text. The lie would
> work differently for OCR as opposed to barcode, but
> could still give a
> phony result in either case.
> You vote for Smith, but Jones is recorded in the
> EBI. Smith is
> printed on the ballot.
> Let's say a tiny number "3" is placed in a strategic
> location on the
> printout For the OCR system, it can read the
> ballot and report
> "Smith" but also sees the tiny 3 and knows that it
> should record this
> as a vote for Jones, the third candidate in the
> contest. The REBI and
> EBI both say Jones. Jones gets the vote despite
> what is printed on
> the ballot.
> The barcode could be similarly encoded to lie to the
> voter saying,
> correctly, that "Smith" is printed on the ballot
> while Jones is
> getting the vote.
> Given that OCR software is quite complex, it would
> be difficult to
> spot malware that could cause printed ballots to
> reflect the voter's
> choices but record the electronic vote otherwise.
> So, regardless of whether we employ OCR or barcode,
> a manual check of
> the electronic record against the printed text must
> be standard
> procedure. A computerized voting system with a
> paper ballot is no
> more secure than a computerized system without a
> paper ballot if all
> the checking is done by computer. So long as audit
> procedures are in
> place to check the printout against the electronic
> record, malware has
> a very low chance of success on a system with the
> summary paper
> ballot. The OCR/barcode debate doesn't matter in
> this regard.
> 4) OCR may be no more transparent or secure than
> using a barcode, but
> it may appear more secure. Appearance is important
> so this should
> count for something. Most likely, the average
> person understands no
> more about how OCR software works than s/he
> understands about how
> barcode software works. On the other hand, barcodes
> are ubiquitous --
> trusted tools of commerce. It's not clear which the
> public would
> prefer. Trials and surveys are needed.
> 5) Our experience has been that people that raise
> objections about the
> barcode are usually objecting to machine counting
> altogether -- these
> people are often nontechnical. They want hand
> counting instead. They
> may be no happier with OCR. We also find that these
> objections are
> not necessarily unmoveable. Most people get over
> the objection
> without too much difficulty when it's explained how
> the system works
> and that manual checks will be in place to verify
> that the readout
> from the barcode matches the printed text.
> 6) OCR may be less accurate than barcodes. The
> barcode with good
> error detection should be 100% accurate. That is,
> if you get a read,
> the odds are astronomically high that it's right.
> 7) An OCR scanning station might be more difficult
> for blind voters.
> If the blind voter has to remove the ballot from the
> folder to insert
> it into some device, there is a risk that the voter
> will drop the
> ballot or have some other difficulty -- especially
> considering that
> blind voters sometimes have other disabilities. The
> only way to
> really find out would be to build both OCR and
> barcode stations and
> see which work better for reading impaired voters.
> 8) An interesting test I'd like to see: two
> different mock elections,
> one utilizing OCR and one with barcode. Set up the
> verification
> station for each. Will normal reading/sighted users
> use the
> verification station? Some small percentage would
> use the
> verification station for barcoded ballots. My guess
> is that for the
> OCR system, they will use it much less if at all.
> In both cases, if
> the mock election was repeated with the same
> subjects, I predict that
> usage of the verification stations would be less the
> next time. It
> may be that our verification station was for the
> demo only.
> Especially if we go to OCR, I don't think it would
> be used enough to
> justify setting up. This may be a good thing. If
> we have one system
> set up for voters that need the accessible system,
> the verification
> station may be integrated with that.
> 9) OCR print may compromise human readability of the
> ballot. If
> you're not worried about OCR, you can optimize the
> text for
> readability for humans. A fixed width font may work
> best for OCR but
> will be less efficiently read by humans. It may not
> fit as easily on
> the printout as a proportional font. If we adopt
> User Centered Design
> principles and place the voter as the primary user,
> this may rule out
> OCR.
> 10) Precinct level tabulation may be slower or more
> expensive with
> OCR. I suspect that a station to count, say, 500
> ballots, will be
> more expensive and/or take longer than a station
> that reads the
> barcodes with a hand-held scanner. Again, this is
> speculation and
> real data would only come with trials and
> experiments.
> Summary
> --------------
> In summary, I still think the barcoded ballot with
> manual verification
> that the text matches the electronic ballot image,
> is the most
> efficient way to go. OCR does not eliminate the need
> for the manual
> check. Open source helps too but is not a cure-all
> either.
> OCR may be more saleable, on the other hand. Some
> of the questions
> may be approachable even without major funding. But
> real answers to
> some of the questions above would require some real
> tests.
> I have no problem with the assertion that an OVC
> production system may
> not include a barcode. I would like to see some
> trials though.
> Alan D.
> _______________________________________________
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Received on Sat Apr 30 23:17:09 2005

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